Hurleyisms, Peter Hurley's Best One-Liners to Use During a Set to Bring Life to Your Subjects

Do you ever have trouble talking with your subjects during a shoot? Not sure what to say to them to get that perfect facial expression? No need to worry, Peter Hurley is here with "Hurleyisms."

Most of you should have heard of Peter Hurley by now, especially if you are into portrait photography. Peter Hurley is well known for his art on shooting commercial headshots. You can check some of his tutorials here on Fstoppers, The Art Behind The Headshot and Illuminating The Face

Peter now comes to us with a new site that has over 1,000 of his best one-liners to help get your subjects glowing, laughing, and smiling for their headshots. Instead of just saying “smile,” now you have something more to say to bring that life and feeling into the camera. Personally I will be using some of these lines in my future shoots, I usually am pretty quiet during my session. This is definitely one area I am trying to improve. Hurleyisms works on any iPhone, iPad, Android, or computer so there’s no excuse to not have these readily available during your shoot. Actually any device that display the website will work.

Not sure how or when to use Hurleyisms during your shoot? Check out this video explaining how to use them and get those amazing shots of your subject smiling and laughing. Granted, you usually don’t want a full session of your subject laughing the whole time, but these one-liners are sure to help when you need them to.

Jump over to to try it out for free, or you have an option to subscribe monthly for just $5. There’s also a lifetime access option for $99.

What is your personal favorite one-liner that you use often on your shoots? What’s your favorite one line from Hurleyisms? Comment below with your answers!

Alex Ventura's picture

Staff writer Alex Ventura is a professional photographer based out of the Houston area that specializes in automotive and glamour with the occasional adventures into other genres. He regularly covers automotive related events for Houston Streets & Spekture with some publications in the United States.

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To me this seems a little too robotic. If someone is new I will tell them to make a few weird faces at me and that cracks them up and makes them more comfortable. Other problem is people don't know how to portray themselves cause nobody wants to just be themselves.

For example I had an R&B singer sitting on a stool and he told me he didn't know what to do. So I asked "James Bond or Batman?" He said "James Bond" so I said "Okay be James Bond." After that his whole mindset changed and he was acting out what he saw in his head and the pics came out better than he thought.

What a great idea. They turned out great. I'll have to try that!

Yeah that's a great one I like that.

Everyone is different, but I definitely like your approach. Thanks for sharing, will be using this but maybe not those two choices specifically.

A couple of weird faces makes wonders - relaxes their minds but also their face muscles. Great tip with popular characters - will try next time if needed ;)

Those are fine photos David, but I would not call them headshots.

When you get close up and miniscule changes in expression make all the difference in the world, your shtick has to be more than "James Bond or Batman?" . Although that is certainly a fine start. :)

My guess is that if you can come up with that on your own, you might not be in the targeted market for Hurleyisms. You might be naturally clever and even funny. But not everyone is. A lot of photographers are shy introverts and are unused to helping people smile naturally.

I consider myself to be fairly witty, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a list of things that work for you handy, for those times when the client is just a little tougher than usual.

I'd say if you're shy, being a portrait photographer isn't going to be your thing. Maybe landscape. Making people feel comfortable and confident is number one. A camera just captures an image so it's up to the photographer to bring that personality out and capture the best of people. You can read them knock knock jokes if you want to read from a card but if people see you reading from a cue sheet, it might not be the image you want them to have of you.

I was shy but interaction is one the photographers best tools. If you stay silent while shooting you'll notice them start to disappear. I just try and get the model to stop thinking. If someone is trying too hard I will tell them to look away and I can see all the pressure leave their face. Just tricks you pick up from looking at tons of bad pics after.

A lot of shy people like to get behind the camera, thinking that they are safe there. That's one reason, I think, why Peter encourages them to get in front of their own cameras.

I find it difficult trying to get someone to stop thinking. I can, however, say things that take their mind off of the camera for a while. That often takes asking them questions or saying things that make them think of something, anything, other than the camera, or what they look like at that moment.

Hurleyisms are a way to help photographers say things that cause laughter sometimes, but maybe more often, just redirects the clients thoughts to something else.

One of my favorites, that I came up with on my own (if I recall correctly) that works on almost everyone, is to ask them to silently count to 43 by fives. It invariably causes them to screw up their face in confusion and then generates a smile. Not usually a laugh though. Which is fine with me.

But I am not, and have never been accused of being shy. I am an extrovert. Big time. Yet even I feel like having Peter's list, created over years of shooting people, could help me now and then.

Ninety nine dollars for lifetime or $5 a month, now that's funny. Next we'll see "Hurley squeaky toys or clown nose, guaranteed to make 'em smile. Only $25."

It isn't $99 per year. The $99 is a lifetime membership. Trust me, Peter understands math well enough.

Reminds me of when Donald Draper said "Can't believe you guys have the balls to walk back in here after the way you embarrassed yourselves." and the other guy tries the same line and bombs it.

April 1st already?

haha, seriously?
And there I was, thinking photographers who sell t-shirts with their names on them were stupid..

I took Peter Hurley's class at Canon in Southern California and it was interesting to see the difference between headshots, and headshots A MOMENT AFTER they either laugh (the face lights up) or when they are confused (they give an intense stare), it's a moment that if captured was clearly the best shot in a group. (Our class could spot "that" shot from the group every time.) The problem is "be funny" or "ask interesting questions" for two hours I think is too much for an up-coming photographer (this was obvious to members in the class including me), so that's why he's done this. It's just another piece of stress removed, you glance down to your iPad, choose line (you feel is appropriate for that model) and throw it. I've shot four models using his Hurleyisms website now, they all commented when leaving that this was the most fun they'd EVER had in a shoot. To some people this comes naturally (like David Love's James Bond/Batman line is PERFECT) but when I come up with a line like that, I add it to the Hurleyisms app and share it with others. (Together all our shoots will get better.) My favorite line which I added is "Chin up a little, down a little, up, down... Why are you nodding at me?" (Then laugh, they will laugh, SNAP!) Try it.

Shameless advertorial plug for a man that still doesn't know how to shave.

This guy's work is seriously no good. Can't believe he continues to "teach"/"sell" his "technique"

I went over his portfolio, his headshot work (especially women) is really mediocre. Basically he blasts the subject face with light all around, the result has no dimension and completely flat. This is a very objective observation I dare to say. I hope all the people paying money to buy his tutorial think twice before doing that, when you learn from a mediocre teacher, you will become mediocre too.

You can't come here and say that and then NOT post a few links to people you respect or enjoy their look better.

Or not have any of his own work showing on his profile.

My work is linked off from my profile, am I allowed to comment now?

Love the fact you have the same person in your gallery twice !

Thanks for the link. You're certainly allowed to comment, but the evidence shows you shouldn't be commenting critically on someone else's work, particularly someone who can charge thousands of dollars for a session and still be booked out for several months.

There are a lot of us who aspire to shoot quality work like Hurley. My portfolio is a mess right now, but practicing his methods along with sharing tips and tricks with other photographers with a similar mindset has raised the quality of my work in the last several months.

At the end of the day, his style isn't for everyone, but it's quite obvious that his techniques work. The amount of hate on this comment thread is what makes the Internet really tiring sometimes -- the guy deserves a lot of credit for helping to bring headshot photography into a mainstream genre of the industry and who is also willing to share his hard work and knowledge with those of us who want to learn the craft. The mere fact that he can capitalize off of 15 years of service with products like this is a part of capitalism that many of us benefit from.

Can we see your work? Or you just trolling for $hits and giggles?

Here is my work, am I allowed to comment now?

I'm struggling to see whether you are showcasing the backgrounds or the blank stares coupled with the school picture smiles.

If I were you, I probably wouldn't have said anything. You put your own work up against the work of a man, who literally wrote the book on headshots, has created a look, style, and technique for shooting pictures, teaches loads of people worldwide, and created a community / learning platform of more than 12,000 headshot photographers. To say that Peter is accomplished is an understatement. Yet, you sit behind a computer, critiquing his life's work as if you offer something better. By the looks of your own portfolio, it might have been wiser to say nothing.

Shun Liang, to my eye, most of your shots look very professional and very nice but lack precisely what Peter Hurley teaches: authentic expressions. That's the key to his work and you can see it in the shots of his that you posted onto this thread.

Peters loves to photograph female headshots with flat lighting on white background - that's his style preference which he does not impose that on his students. But if you bring him a shot with a fake posed smile he will shoot you down in a heartbeat.

He developed "Hurleyisms" as a means to assist headshot photographers to move from capturing expressions that are just ok to capturing authentic moments of expression. The software is just one means of using "Hurleyisms". I've got a piece of paper at home from one of his seminars that helps me tremendously. Check out his book too which is an incredible value.

People that participate regularly in Peter's online meetings develop an eye for natural expressions over time. One year ago I would have thought that your headshots were wonderful, but now I see greater potential.

Nobody said you couldn't comment. We just wanted to have the ability to compare work between someone with your mouth and a top tier photographer like Peter. I lack the understanding of your piss poor criticism when clearly your work is no different than a typical "high school picture" taken by an average photographer. Yes the same ones you find on school ID cards.
Pretty apparent that I am not the only one that thinks so. Beyond your baseless critiques and unfounded comments about Peter, how could you possibly see yourself to be on a caliber high enough to even critique the guy? Basically WTF were you thinking?
It's like me putting my useless two cents in towards Lee and Patrick's wedding photography business. It doesn't make an ounce of sense or CLASS.
As a matter of fact, I don't think you're even qualified enough to even take Peter's "mediocre" course. You simply don't have enough understanding of lighting, post production, and I'll even go as far as basic camera understanding to get to that so called "mediocre" course.

Hurley charges quite a bit of money for his headshots. He is booked out almost a year last I heard. Based on your link, I highly doubt you can say the same. People go to Hurley because thats the look they want.

People don't book him solely for his style. Yes, it's very clean and, "flat," but that's what a headshot is supposed to be. The reason why he's sought after and respected is because his work explodes with PERSONALITY. A headshot is to, more or less, sell yourself. Think of it this way:

You walk into a grocery store, and go to the cereal aisle. One box is plain brown cardboard that says, "Cereal," in bold, black lettering. Right next to it is the same type of cereal, but its packaging is colorful, enthusiastic, and when you look at it, it seems like a party. You're going to want the party box. Peter Hurley is the party box. Anyone can take a picture of someone's face, only a handful can take a headshot, and Hurley is one of the best.

First of all, Peter posts more imaginative images than the ones he teaches people to strive for. His portfolio is not really representative of the guidelines he teaches. And it is certainly not representative of the portfolios he helps people create for themselves. But it works for him, and that is what is important. It would not work for me, or likely for you or for most other people.

More important, his light is flat on purpose. Commercial headshots where the casting director or hiring manager can really see what the client looks like are preferred. If they were not, his clients would not be getting jobs on Broadway and TV. But he does not always shoot with flat light.

By the way, one of those shots got someone a job as a cop on a TV series. Care to guess which one?

I saw your work Shun. If I compare it to the Mentors and Associates on Peter's site it is sorely lacking. The crop, the poses, the expressions. Few of them would pass the critiques we go through every week. Mostly the problem is consistency. Your portfolio has none. What will someone get when they come to you?

You certainly have skills. And I would bet that with some of Peter's help you would be able to put together a winning portfolio quickly.

Me? My portfolio is not quite there yet. But I am learning. And the people on Peter Hurley's Headshot Crew are the reason that my shots have gotten better and better over the last year. If you don't like his work, can I assume that you are making as much money shooting headshots as he is? Do agents send people to you because they know that you will get the best possible shot out of their client?

Maybe you ought to take advantage of the free trial at and see what he has to say about the headshots that are submitted every week. Who knows, you might learn something.

I love it! It's helpful when taking your subject's mind off the shoot, they relax and stop thinking of the camera.

Maybe not everyone works the same way, but instead of being so negative and knocking what works for others, applaud the help and effort a successful photographer puts into helping others in a positive way.